Russell Crowe is one of his generation’s biggest Hollywood stars, but he almost turned down the role that made him famous because he thought it was “total rubbish.”
For many movie fans, Russell Crowe will always be remembered for playing Maximus in Russell Crowe’s 2000 epic Gladiator. The film was one of the highest-grossing movies of the year and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Crowe.
The now-classic film made Crowe one of the biggest stars in Hollywood — but he almost missed out on it because he didn’t understand the script.
“I was confident about my abilities as a leading man,” Crowe recently told Variety. “What I wasn’t confident about with Gladiator was the world that was surrounding me. At the core of what we were doing was a great concept but the script, it was rubbish, absolute rubbish. And it had all these sorts of strange sequences.”
Crowe says he had an issue with scenes in the script where gladiators would ride chariots promoting products like olive oil. While historical gladiators really did have endorsement deals, Crowe thought it would confuse audiences.
“That’s all true but it’s just not going to ring right to a modern audience,” Crowe said. “They’re going to go, ‘What the f–k is all this?’”
Crowe was so sure the film would be a disaster that he considered quitting the production altogether. “The energy around what we were doing was very fractured,” he told Variety. “I did think a couple times, ‘Maybe my best option is just to get on a plane and get out of here.’”
However, he said he was reassured by director Ridley Scott: “Mate, we’re not committing anything to camera that you don’t believe in 100%,” Crowe recalled the director telling him. With Crowe’s input, the script was revised during filming, using only what Crowe and Scott could agree on.
Gladiator was a massive hit, grossing over $503 million worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 2000.
In addition to winning five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor, the film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, so perhaps Crowe’s feedback on the script helped after all.
Gladiator also made Crowe into an international superstar: he went on to star in acclaimed films like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Cinderella Man, 3:10 to Yuma and Les Misérables.
“It’s something that changed my life, really,” he told Collider last year. “It changed the way people regarded me and what I do for a living, and, you know, I’ve been very lucky to be involved in lots of big movies, but the legs on that film are incredible.”
A long-awaited sequel to Gladiator is set to be released next year, starring Oscar nominee Paul Mescal, along with Denzel Washington and Barry Keoghan.
We’re very glad Russell Crowe stuck with Gladiator despite his initial issues with the script, launching his career and making it the classic film we know today.
Please share this interesting bit of movie trivia if you love Russell Crowe and Gladiator!
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